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Europe's and US's different approaches to terror

Since shortly after 11 Sep 2001, I have believed — and said — that the Bush administration has done a great service to terrorists by elevating them to a status worthy of the world's sole remaining superpower conducting war against them. The International Law Dictionary defines war as

A sustained struggle of a scale and duration that threatens the existence of the government of a state or an equivalent juridical person and that is waged between groups of forces that are armed, wear a distinctive insignia, and are subject to military discipline under a responsible command.

Okay, it could be argued that this is an outdated definition that needs to be rethought. I'm all in favor of rethinking. But after reading this article from the Boston Globe [pointed to by Dave Farber], I think I'd rather rethink our approach to terrorists rather than rethink our definition of war.

... European terrorism specialists, government officials, and counterterrorism investigators from different political leanings say that understanding the difference between the US and Europe's approaches to terror begins with language.

"The semantics are very important," said Gustavo de Aristegui, a leader of the right-of-center Popular Party and a terrorism specialist....

"For America to keep using the phrase 'war on terror' reflects a deep misunderstanding of the threat we face," said Aristegui, who has held postings in the Middle East and whose father, also a diplomat, was killed in Lebanon by Syrian shelling during the civil war.

"Calling what we face a 'war on terror,' " he added, "is a semantic trap that legitimizes a criminal element as a group worthy of being called an enemy in a conventional sense, and worthy of being a force with which we can engage in war. We need to have language that reflects the reality, and the reality is we need to close the faucet of good guys going into the pool of bad guys...."

I recommend reading the whole article.

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